Chinese Traditional Toys for Kids

Traditional toys indicate the handmade toy that is handed down from ancient times. It is also part of children-friendly activities in China. With a long history and huge value, Chinese traditional toys have a close relation with folk custom. Traditional toys are made by the production mode of workshop in each household. It is a local and household workmanship carried on from generation to generation. It mainly employs natural mud, bamboo, stone, cloth, painting, metal, or fur, etc.

The subject of traditional toys is part of the traditional Chinese culture, and it expresses the public believes, folk customs and operas, legends and folk literature, etc. The model and structure of traditional toys in China is optional and subjective. Feature with primitive cultures and folk arts, Chinese traditional toys reflect the China's traditional aesthetic ideas. It richens the folk games and sports activities of China. People get entertainment and reach the purpose of physical fitness when they play all kinds of games and activities. Jointly participating in various games and competitions make people enhance affective interaction and realize the true meaning of sports.

Traditional Chinese toys - sugar figure

History and Category of Traditional Chinese Toys

According to the historical records, as early as in the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD), there were toys like wooden horses, masks, dolls, clay carts, tile dogs, etc. In the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1127AD), porcelain toys were popular, and human figure toys made of silk appeared. The production of toys is mentioned many ancient books. In the "Tradler's Chart" written by Li Song and Su Hanchen, there were dozens of toys at that time. Traditional Chinese toys according to the production method can be divided into: figure toys, such as dough figure, sugar figure, clay figure, material, etc.; Carving toys, such as dongmu, bamboo dragon, diabolo, etc.; Stitching toys, with fabric, feathers, fur and paper as the raw materials; And weaving toys, woven with palm silk, wheat straw, bamboo strips, corn husk and bark.

The Chinese traditional toys form rich and colorful category and local style during endless history, and it has been accompanied by the growth of human beings. Nowadays, many toys have changed their appearances. However, the profound meaning and the wisdom of ancestor still live forever within Chinese traditional toys.

Here below are some popular traditional Chinese toys: 

1. Chinese Shadow Puppetry (皮影戏, pí yǐng xì)

Shadow puppetry is a folk art form and a traditional toy in China. Longdong Shadow Puppetry (陇东皮影) originated in Northwest China's Gansu Province is popular in Pingliang (平凉) and Qingyang (庆阳) counties, and the triangular area bordering Shaanxi and Ningxia to the east. Longdong shadow play (陇东皮影戏) was very popular in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (14th century to 19th century). The shadow play figures are handsome and generous in shape, and its outline is straight and broad.

If looking for Chinese traditional toys when traveling in Xian with kids, you can watch wonderful shadow play show at Gao Family Mansion or Small Goose Pagoda. There’s also opportunity that you and children can make a shadow puppetry figure.

Chinese toys for kids

2. Kite (风筝, fēng zheng)

Kite was originated in China. The earliest kite is made by the Chinese ancient philosophers MoZhai. Original kite is not a kind of toy, but a tool for military or communication. Due to the emergence of the paper in Tang Dynasty, kite was widely spread at that time. Finally, it gradually became people's leisure and entertainment toy.

Chinese kite has more than two thousand years` history. The auspicious patterns and lucky designs can be seen everywhere on the kite. These patterns reflect the yearning and pursuit of people for life, and express the meaning of good luck and happiness. It combines people`s habit of appreciation, reflects the thoughts and feelings of the people, permeates the Chinese national tradition and folk customs. Thus, Chinese kite is widely spread in folk. Today the Kite Festival in Weifang, Shandong Province is still held every year. And when you plan family China tours with kids, it is good idea to add the activity of flying kites.

3. Rattle-drum (拨浪鼓, bō lang gǔ)

Rattle-drum a Chinese traditional musical instrument and toy appeared in the warring states period. The main part of rattle-drum is a little drum. Two pellets are fastened on the both sides of drum. A handle is installed under the drum. The sound is uttering when you roll the sound. The body of drum can be made of wood, bamboo or paperboard. The drumhead is made of sheepskin, cowhide, snakeskin or paperboard. Early rattle-drum was musical instrument rather than toy. Nowadays, it is popular in some areas of Gansu, Yunnan and Sichuan and the vast areas in the north.

Thanks to its function of acoustics and entertainment, rattle-drum is widely spread in China. It can play a changeful to catch people's attention. Besides, its appearance heightens its ornamental value. With a strong recreational characteristic, rattle-drum always brings the flavor of happiness, easiness and grace to people.

Kid-friendly activities in China

4. Top (陀螺, tuó luó)

The top is a familiar toy for many youths in China. Nowadays, this kind of toy has spread all over the world. China is the hometown of top. The stone top was found from the ruins of Neolithic Period in Xia County, Shanxi Province. Thus, the top at least have four thousand to five thousand years` history.

Another interesting toy called bamboo dragonfly (竹蜻蜓, zhú qīng tíng) was appeared 1700 years ago in the Jin dynasty. This kind of toy was called the Chinese toy by the westerners after it spread into Europe. However, the real top spread more early to the abroad than that.

The top means solid of revolution in English. The original term was officially proposed by a French physicist in the middle of the nineteenth century. The top is a kind of solid of revolution spinning on the ground, while the bamboo dragonfly is a kind of solid of revolution spinning in the sky. So, to some extent, the bamboo dragonfly can actually be a kind of top.

Children Playing Top, Chinese Traditional Outdoor Activity

5. Diabol (空竹, kōng zhú)

Diabolo, also named "dǒu wēng" (literally shaking buzz), is a famous traditional folk toy in China. With two small bamboo stick tied with line, wrapped in the wood shaft and shaking, diabolo pins rapidly and make a sound.

As early as the end of the Ming Dynasty, Beijing diabolo has become a toy in spring season, people shake diabolo in the hutongs and courtyards. The melodious and pleasant sound in the city of Beijing was heard up and down. Today you can still experience playing diabolo with kids at the hutong of Beijing.

6. Shuttlecock (踢毽子, tī jiàn zi)

Shuttlecock has a history of more than 2,000 years in China. Since the Han Dynasty, people have been playing shuttlecock kicking. Even now, kicking shuttlecock is still one of the most popular outdoor activities. not only for children, but also for seniors. The reason why the sport has lasted all these years owes to its colorful variation in kicking and the fun in practicing. Shuttlecock can be played by one or a circle of people. Five or six individuals may form a small circle, kicking a shuttlecock. There are also people who like playing alone. Even when you play by yourself, you can often attract other people coming around and watching you play.

Making a shuttlecock is quite simple. You just need to find two or three coins with holes, put several feathers in the hole, and then sew down the feathers to the coin with cloth strips. Of course, there are shuttlecocks sold in stores. The rule of kicking shuttlecock is also simple: keeping the shuttlecock in the air by using any part of your body but your hands. 

Children Kicking Shuttlecock, Chinese traditional Outdoor Activity

7. Perfumed medicine bag/sachet (香包, xiāng bāo)

In ancient times, to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, the family elders would make sachets with cotton or silk, filled with fragrant medicinal materials, and ask children to wear the sachets or hang them on a bed, so as to ward off disease and bring good fortune. After the Dragon Boat Festival, the sachets were thrown away. So if you see someone throw a sachet on the road, don't pick it up.

8. Cloth Tiger (布老虎, bù lǎo hǔ)

Cloth tiger is a kind of handicraft that has been widely popular among Chinese people since ancient times. It is also indoor decoration, a great gift and a fun toy for children. For Chinese people, the tiger is a symbol of protection from evil, peace and good fortune, and is able to protect wealth.

During the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, it is popular to make cloth tigers for children, or paint tiger faces on children's foreheads with realgar, which symbolizes health, strength and courage.

There are many forms of cloth tiger, including single head tiger, double head tiger, four head tiger, son and mother tiger, lovers tiger, cloth tiger pillow, set tiger and so on.

Cloth tiger is one of most poupular traditonal Chinese toys

9. Chinese Ring Puzzle (九连环, jiǔ lián huán)

The Chinese ring puzzle is a traditional Chinese folk intellectual toy, and was much favored by women and children in Qing Dynasty. In Dream of Red Mansions (one of China’s four great ancient classics), Lin Daiyu solved nine links skillfully. The ring puzzle is considered to be one of the most ingenious toys invented by human beings, due to its ingenious and complex method of unwrapping.

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